Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, by Haruki Murakami – Book Review

A book with a phenomenological insight on a character viewed from two different dimensions. Haruki Murakami is a Japanese bestselling author of fourteen novels and five collections of stories, his works being translated in over forty languages. The novel was written in 1985, the year being lively portrayed in the book. From movies, book references and music, the culture and spirit of the 80’s is very well punctuated and envisioned.

Could you count the coins you have in the left pocket with one side of your brain while you count with your other side the coins from your right pocket?

The nameless, faceless protagonist sets himself apart from the rest of the world, letting the reader know that he is a different model, somehow better. The author invites you to enter its two realms while listening to Bob Dylan, Duran Duran or humming to Danny Boy as you suspend your disbelief. On one hand, there is the pseudo-science of the “real” world that is the Hard boiled wonderland, with ounces of brainwashing and dark creatures hidden in the Japanese metro system. On the other hand, or side of the brain, there is a town inside an uncrossable wall where unicorns roam.”At the end of the world”, the other realm presented in parallel chapters is a more bizarre and colorful world. In that universe, the story progresses in the span of a year, while the wonderland goes on for about two weeks. The colors as you read it go from bright spring greens, to gold and white and grey. A well balanced writing, between realism and bizarre occurrences will hook you while you ask yourself how are the two worlds connected, what is the relation between one another?

“Once again, life had a lesson to teach me: it takes years to build up, it takes moments to destroy.”

The rest of the characters are both as normal and bizarre as the story progresses. Murakami handled a multitude of philosophical and ethical issues in his prose, such as scientific experimentation on humans and accepting your life at face value, without asking the big “whys” and “what ifs”. A young girl, half the protagonist’s age follows him in the quest of going underground to find an old man that worked on his brain. A very short, rich pompous man and his cousin, a tall man built like a wrestler are hired to vandalize and hurt people. The most intriguing and mysterious character though seems to be the protagonist’s own shadow, which is detached from his person and becomes its own being.

“I thought about rain myself. A mist so fine, it almost wasn’t rain. Falling, ever fair, ever equal, it gradually covered my consciousness in a filmy, colorless curtain. Sleep had come. Now I could reclaim all I’d lost. What’s lost never perishes. I closed my eyes and gave myself over to sleep.”

Sexuality is also a recurring theme in Murakami’s works. In this novel we put ourselves in the shoes of a 40 year old man that wonders if women take off their jewelry while having sex and can’t get an erection due to the stress of being stabbed and having his life completely slip out of his hands.

All in all, this is one of the books that stays somewhere in the back of your head for a long time and then randomly, unanswered questions pop up and you start re-thinking about it. Much like most of Murakami’s other works.

Carmen Irimie

Carmen Irimie